June 28, 2007

Renault Espace F1 Concept: French For "All You Got's A Hemi?"

Just like the Edison/Lumiere debate about who invented movies, Americans and the French each think they invented minivans. The Renault Espace came to market in 1984, a year after the Dodge Caravan, but the design predates the US Chrysler models. [But it actually originated in the 1970's with Matra and Simca, Chrysler's European division, which they sold to Peugeut, which is how Renault came to produce it. Donc, c'est evident, non?]

Anyway, this whole exercise would less about taking credit and more about assigning blame if it weren't for the Renault Espace F1 Concept, which Renault Sport, Matra, and Williams teamed up to create as a commemoration stunt for the Espace's 10th anniversary in 1995.


The Espace F1 had the 6-speed transmission, rear suspension, and 800hp RS4 3.5L V10 from a Williams FW14 race car cornholed into a carbon fiber tunnel in the cargo bay. The standard fiberglass bodywork was replaced by stunning carbon fiber; those air ducts around the rear tail lights are my favorites, reminiscent of the immortal toycar, the Renault 5 Turbo II.

Renault apparently called in the motorsports journalists to watch Eric Bernard and Alain Prost take the rig around the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet [a small town east of Marseille where I checked out and almost bought a Citroen 2CV in the summer of 1995. I'm getting a strong sense of harmonic convergence here...] The image of Bernard, in full F1 kit, in front of that minivan dashboard is worth every centime Renault paid for this crackpot scheme. Oh, and yes, Playstation folks, this is the same car as the Espace F1 in GT2.

Anyway, the videos speak for themselves. YouTube is in French, Google Video's in English with Japanese subtitles [and horrible channel levels]. Enjoy.

Renault Espace F1 concept 1995, french [youtube via windingroad.com, thanks dt reader jj daddy-o]
Renault Espace F1 Concept, eng/jp [google video]
Matra/Renault Espace history [matrasports.dk]
Renault Espace [wikipedia]


I don't think I've ever seen anything so very, very, wrong in theory yet somehow so right in execution...

I'm sure Seal is calling around right now to find out if he can buy this thing now that the AMG version of the RL is no longer available.

The best part is the cognitive disconnect between the video and the soundtrack. You are watching a minivan drive around and at the same time you are hearing the F1 engine noise, which if you've never heard it, creates a cacophony something like God's own circular saw must have sounded when creating the Continental Divide.
I am thinking of getting that sound on CD and then just tooling around town in my Sienna with the stereo cranked. Cheaper than a real mid-life crisis car.

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